By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– West Salem and Boston University-commit Lauren Duke knows that this is going to be a big year for her and the five other seniors going into this Fall season in 2022 with ten seniors graduating from their 7-6-2, co-Mountain Valley Conference and 6A playoff appearance team.
For Duke, who’s excited about the up-and-coming talent to replace those ten seniors, she hopes to share her passion for the game and turn it into leadership knowing what the game she’s played since she was five has taught her going into this final season.
“I’m really competitive and I know a lot of the other girls are too. Just trying to bring out that fire out from them and keep every practice as competitive as possible. I think that helps keep the team elevated as a leader in that kind of way and keeps everyone motivated in that way too to keep working hard,” Duke starts drawing from her personal experience with the sport. “I’m just really excited that we’re going to have a lot of young girls, new girls to our team who are really hard workers. I think being a strong senior leader can help make it more fun, so I’m trying to do with our other seniors too since they’re six of us,”
Head Coach Banje Orozco points to the squad, as they wrapped up the second day of try-outs Tuesday morning at West Salem High School, in having a strong sophomore and junior class that they can build upon. Orozco is expecting the Duke Sisters, both Lauren and Morgan to step up, the younger Duke coming off of injury. Morgan was the leading scorer for the Titans back during the Covid short-season two years ago and is expected to be an impact player for the squad this year.
Overall Orozco feels like his team will be balanced. From the forwards back to their defense, Orozco feels like this might be a solid team with his focus on goalie and filling the void left by Natalie Cunningham and her graduation.
“We got some young girls stepping up and we’re trying to figure that stuff out right now. That’s going to be a big gap to fill in that position,” Orozco said. “I feel like our defense will be solid, our midfield will be young but we will have Lauren as a leader in that group. Our forwards will be strong. We’ll be really balanced, but it’s just trying to figure out our rhythm. Figuring out who our role players are going to be and plugging them into the right spots and figuring all that stuff out. We’re figuring that stuff out now in preseason. But the quality of girls coming in and the freshman class as a whole is a good group.”
Orozco is expecting to pull up a few of the freshmen to the Varsity roster this season. West Salem opens the season August 25 at Woodburn for a jamboree and open the season August 30 at Nelson. The Titans home opener is September 6 at Churchill.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald